Teaching Christian Worldview - Distractions
An interview with John Stonestreet, Executive Director of Summit Ministries, by T.M. Moore of BreakPoint/Worldview Church. Posted by permission of John Stonestreet and www.Summit.org.
The impression many people get of young folks today is that they’re so distracted and consumed by pop culture that they can’t be serious about anything else. Your experience, however, is in another direction altogether. What are you seeing among the young people with whom you work?
In one sense, of course, the impression that young people are distracted is right on. They’re plugged in all the time in a world full of noise and messages. The mistake we make, as those trying to reach them, is to assume that because they are distracted, therefore they’ll not be serious about anything else. This is (a) not true and (b) not helpful. We think we have to add Christian noise to the rest of the noise in order to reach them. We try to be relevant with the coolest stuff, Christianizing secular music, offering Christian pep rallies, and filling youth rooms with Wiis and Xbox 360s. Of course, this only succeeds in contributing to their addiction to media and distraction! And, thus, the Christian message gets dumbed down at best, or drowned out at worst.
Another result is the endless cycle of emotional appeal that we subject students to these days. Another conference with another emotional appeal to rededicate and rededicate and rededicate: this produces a generation of Christian junkies who just want another high. They define their spiritual success as how they’re “feeling” and whether they’re on the high or not. Of course, this is highly volatile. One or two tough times, and they become either disillusioned with the concept they think is Christianity or hopeless about ever making it. This is clear in the high numbers who abandon their faith altogether when it gets challenged ideologically or socially in college.
What’s the answer? Paul suggests that we’re transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). Young people need a filter, something to help them navigate their world that’s full of distractions and competing ideas.
My experience is that when students are taught how to think about their world, to take a step back and evaluate their distraction, they respond. They want to be serious, but they need the tools. In fact, once this begins to happen, many of them can’t get enough. They want to be challenged; they want to be taught how to think; they want to know how their faith engages with their life. At Summit, they hear 70-plus hours of lectures over two weeks on apologetics, worldview, culture, and philosophy and they can’t get enough. Does it challenge them? Sure, it does. But they love it. They spend their spending money mostly on books! They have tough discussions over lunch, or even while white-water rafting, about ultimate questions, other religions, or theological and apologetic concerns.
Teaching Christian Worldview - What is it?
Do Christian kids resonate with the idea of “worldview”? Why do you think that’s so?
They really do. I know I did when I first heard it as an undergraduate student in college. I was raised in a Christian home, school, and church, but suddenly I realized that the Gospel was much bigger than getting to heaven when I die.
Dorothy Sayers said something about this when she noted that the typical presentation of Christianity had something to do with only about 10 percent of life. Why, she asked, would the normal thinking person be interested in something that had nothing to do with 90 percent of their life?
I think this is one of the reasons for the big exit from Christianity that so many have noted of students when they leave the shelter of youth group. They don’t know how their faith speaks to all the new aspects of life they now face as young adults in college and in culture.
Thinking in terms of worldview connects the dots for them, and they are yearning for this. This is the post-Seinfeld generation, where the idea of wholeness and an integrated life is not even considered possible. Theirs is a life of episodes, of disconnected experience, barely tied together. When they grasp the idea of a Christian worldview and understand that other worldviews are competing for their hearts and minds, their faith opens up to them, I think. They see where ideas have antecedents (they come from somewhere) and consequences (they take us somewhere).
Teaching Christian Worldview - Why is Worldview Important?
What do you teach the kids about worldview—what it is and why it matters, for example?
First, we teach them that everyone has a worldview. Everyone, whether they realize it or not, operates from a set of basic beliefs that shapes their view of the world and for the world. And the key to understanding their world and the key issues they face, including historically, is to understand the assumptions that shape cultures as well as the actions of the people who embrace them.
Second, we teach them that Scripture offers a worldview in the sense that it establishes certain truths about reality that are fundamental to everything. The idea that the universe is a creation has enormous consequences, as opposed to the idea that it’s an accident. If humans are image bearers, then the universe is a different place than if we’re all god, as Oprah is currently suggesting.
Third, we teach them that there are worldviews that compete with Christianity for individuals, families, and cultures. The history of the world is the history of competing ideas. And as residents of the Information Age, these students encounter more competing ideas than any generation that has ever lived before them. Our approach, and we have had to adjust as different ideas rise to the forefront, is to help young people understand five major worldviews in addition to the biblical Christian worldview: secular humanism, Marxism, Islam, postmodernism, and the New Age.
Fourth, we teach them how to recognize the worldview struggle that is core to key cultural issues. Worldviews are not merely abstract ideologies that compete for publishers. They’re real-life applications of ideas that compete for souls. The real battle is not between Dawkins’ The God Delusion and McGrath’s The Dawkins Delusion. The real battle has to do with family, legislation, technology, church, abortion, human trafficking, etc.
Fifth, we teach them basic apologetics. We want them to know where their faith will be challenged (both directly and indirectly) and how it can be defended. We do this through teaching, but primarily through exposing them to the enormous amount of resources available. I’m amazed at how many students as well as adults are unaware of the terrific resources out there to help them deal with challenges to their faith.
Finally, we talk about how they can jump in. We want them to survive college, but we also want them to thrive in college—to make a difference, to be faithful with the truth, and to impact others.